Genocide in Cambodia – Choeung Ek Genocidal Center and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Read the first post on Cambodia here, on Phnom Penh City.

Entrance to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Entrance to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Between 1975 and 1979, a genocide was carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot. It was estimated that between 1.5 to 3 million people were killed, which is almost a whole generation of people in Cambodia. Up to 20,000 mass graves, known as Killing Fields, were uncovered throughout Cambodia. We decided to visit one of the Killing Fields, Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – it seemed wrong to list them as popular, but I have to say that one should visit these 2 places to learn about the history of Cambodia and the atrocities inflicted to the people of Cambodia.

(Some of the images below may be a little disturbing, so… be prepared.)

We took a tuk tuk, an auto rickshaw, a few distance away from our hotel and negotiated with him to bring us to these 2 places. I think it costed us about US$15 to US$20 for the day trip. We first head to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, which is located about 15 kilometres South-West of Phnom Penh. Before we were out of the city, our driver stopped at a convenience store and bought for us and himself some face masks – as the road ahead are mainly dirt roads, with sand and dust kicking up like a storm by the vehicles.

45 minutes later, we arrived at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center.

Stupa

Memorial Stupa, housing 8,000 skulls exhumed from the mass graves

For US$6, the admission included an audio guide. It was an excellent audio tour, perhaps too excellent, as it describes who and how they were killed. It also included recounts by people who survived the Khmer Rouge and a Choeung Ek guard and executioner.

I remembered the place was very quiet… and eerie. It was horrifying, learning what the Khmer Rouge had done to these people – their own people.

Mass grave

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Luxurious Budae-Kimchi Jjigae (Army-Kimchi Stew)

Luxurious Budae Jjigae

I’ve often seen restaurants in Singapore offering Budae Jjigae in their menu and often wondered what it is about – it seemed so popular and many people like to order it. Upon Googling, I found that Budae Jjigae translates to Army Stew and is a type of jjigae (which means “stew” in Korean), made with lots of unhealthy ingredients like hot dog, Spam, ham, baked beans and instant noodles etc. in a spicy soup base. I do enjoy an occasional hot dog, Spam, ham, baked beans and even instant noodles, but to combine them together and serve as a meal? It’s just too horrifying for me.

So I embarked on a hunt for a healthier and even more yummy jjigae. And I decided to combine Budae Jjigae and Kimchi Jjigae together, swapping out the unhealthy ingredients with more healthy ones.

1) Soup base

The soup base I used is a dried anchovy soup base, made with our local Singapore ikan bilis. Ikan bilis are full of nutrients and a little goes a long way – a small handful packs a very powerful punch of flavour. You can use the Korean varieties if you prefer. The soup base will then be flavoured with kimchi and gochujang. Gochujang is a Korean hot pepper paste which is needed to bring out the flavours and heat of this dish. It’s very hard to find a substitute for this, but I’ve managed to find a blog which tells how to make it from scratch, just in case you need it!

2) Vegetables

The vegetables I used are onion, garlic, mushrooms, kimchi and tofu. You can add spring onions, chili, carrot and all sorts of vegetables!

Onion and garlic are the usual suspects in most cooking, as they give flavour to the dish. Mushrooms are added for some chewiness and you can use any kind of mushrooms – I highly recommend fresh shiitake, shimeji and enokitake as these Asian mushroom flavours will blend well with the overall dish.

Since it is a Budae-Kimchi fusion, kimchi is a must! I used Napa cabbage kimchi as it’s the most common here in Singapore. If you can’t find any, use fresh Napa cabbage, but be prepared to add more gochujang and a longer cooking time to soften the cabbage.

Can’t really say tofu is a vegetable, but I don’t have anywhere to lump it, so here it goes! I used silken tofu as I really love its texture. Add the tofu only towards the end so you won’t break them up as much as you stir the dish.

I garnished the dish with radish sprout the first time – but the radish sprouts have a hint of bitterness in them, so if you don’t like them, omit it!

Luxurious Budae Jjigae

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